Oh yeah, Ian moved out…

| July 10, 2016

ian in truckIan always planned on moving out when he was 20. To Sausalito. To a houseboat. Or maybe a mobile home. Ian is always thinking about plans for the next step.

The summer of 2014, after Ian left high school he started reminding us it was time for him to move out. Janet and I were both “yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll get the paperwork started.” Ian was 19.

We have worked with other families to help their children move out of the family home into some sort of more independent living situation. It can take years to find the right situation. Here in Marin County we usually work with Lifehouse Agency. For living outside the home in California there are basically three places the funding comes from: state and federal funds from Social Security Insurance funds, the Regional Center (in our case the Golden Gate Regional Center), and support from the family.

The previous summer we had thrashed out Ian’s SSI situation. Ian is a medium verbal autistic and is considered 100% disabled. Other than a pile of paperwork and some office visits, our Social Security Administration experience went well. Your mileage may vary… Anyway SSI: DONE.

Ian had been a regional center client since he was 3 years old and we had kept his status up to date. This mainly entailed a home visit each year by his case worker(s). We never received any financial assistance from GGRC when Ian was a minor but Regional Center support is crucial once your child is an adult. Anyway, the annual meetings kept his account open. Regional Center client status: DONE.

The first step for supported housing is to contact the regional center. Janet made an appointment to get the process started. She also contacted Lifehouse Agency to get Ian onto their list. A year or so earlier, Lifehouse had opened a new residence less than a mile from our home that was specifically for young adult autistics and we hoped, one day, he might be able to move in.

ian and calendarWith all the phone calls made and paperwork submitted we settled in for the long wait. Given our experience with others and the stories we had heard, we fully expected to wait for a year or more before a residence opened up. On the waiting list at Lifehouse: DONE.

Less than two weeks after contacting Lifehouse a bedroom came available at the Corte Madera House with three other autistic men. It’s in a nice neighborhood, two blocks from stores with nearby bus stops. The house has a staff person on hand to help guide housekeeping and shopping and stays overnight. Only two miles away from our house, all downhill. We can be there in minutes. No excuses, it was a perfect first placement.

We had gone through the motions to appease Ian’s growing desire for independence but Janet and I were not really ready for this.

We thought perhaps the GGRC approval would slow the process down. But they thought the placement was excellent and fast-tracked the paperwork. So, two weeks after deciding to look for an acceptable new home for Ian, we were packing his bags.

ians bedroom
Ian was enthusiastic about every step. We wanted to keep his bedroom at our house intact as a safety net. We raided Ikea for his bedroom furniture: bed, desk, chair, and dresser. He took his clothes, PC, TV set, books, and a few movies. We put together a basic set of pots and pans. Dishes and such are shared at the house.

For Janet and me, all of this was another of those “this is what we should be doing ((but I don’t know if it will work) and I’d really rather things just stay the same)” moments. We had a swirling kaleidoscope of emotions and a long list of worries. And fears. And nightmares.

Will he starve? Will he eat nothing but junk?

Will he forget to shave? Brush his teeth?

Will he hate his roommates? Will they hate him?

Will he die in his sleep? (I did not claim these were rational fears…)

Will he remember to wear clean clothes?

Will he get enough sleep?

Will he be lonely? Depressed?

Will he overdraw his bank account?

Will he get scammed by somebody?

Imagining failure modes is one of my superpowers. I can probably brainstorm another hundred worries.

Moving Ian into the house was extremely hard for Janet and me. So hard and so upsetting that this is why it has taken nearly two years to write about it and share the experience. Meeting Ian’s roommates and moving him in was one of those times it was really forced into our face: our son is disabled and his adult life will be very different from other kids his age. In our bubble at home we could fool ourselves that all was normal and we could imagine the future. Reality hurt. Still hurts.

Four autistic adult men share a house. What do you think it looks like? Depressing. Silent. Ian’s roommates are all at least ten years older.

ian wavingFor us, moving Ian still hurts and worries us – it still needs our courage to continue. But we are also positive that it was the right thing to do and that it has been good for him.

For Ian, moving out has been amazing. His confidence has grown. His functional independence has grown. He refuses to ever spend the night back home and has relented only when he was recovering from getting his wisdom teeth pulled, down with a cold, or during the holidays when his house is empty and the staff are away. We are planning more major dental work so we can see him more. Ian calls us every night before he goes to bed and he’s used Face Time to do things like have us help him find the right settings on the washing machine.

animal houseWe see Ian nearly every day at Autistry. Ian continues to attend College of Marin and as the second anniversary in his first house comes up he is starting to think about what the next house will be.

He keeps reminding us that “Animal House” is still what he thinks is ideal housing while attending college.

Ian goes to college part 4: Math and English classes

| June 22, 2016

Earlier posts:

Ian goes to college – The plan for his education (November 17, 2014)

Ian goes to college part 2 – His first day (August 26, 2014)

Ian goes to college part 3 – Drama Class Results (February 6, 2015)

We went in to this whole “Ian will take classes at the local junior college” with no idea how or if this would work. Ian is a medium verbal autistic and did not complete a high school diploma.

Would the college accept us inserting an aide into the situation?

Would Ian be able to do the work? Ian had spent all of his public education in Special Education programs where the level of challenge was low.

We knew we should try – we really had no idea if it would work.

We have been amazed, relieved, and inspired by how well it has all turned out. Ian has established a solid start on his college education. For Ian’s second and third semesters he took introductory math classes at College of Marin (hereafter COM): Math 085 (Arithmetic Skills) and Math 095 (Basic/Intermediate Math Skills). We had an aide attend with Ian for the first week or so and after that Ian attended independently. Ian has earned B’s and B-minuses.

In the most recent semester (Spring 2016) Ian is taking a remedial English ENGL 062 (Developmental Reading/Writing) for six units.

With Ian attending independently the main issue becomes whether Ian has understood assignments correctly and is he keeping up with all the work. In his math classes this was not an issue because math classes tend to have one thread of work building upward. However, English classes are squarely in the heart of his disability and he has often slightly misunderstood assignments. The complexity of college English classes is also much higher.

Ian at bus stop

Above is Ian waiting to catch the bus home from school. It’s great how we can use Google Street View to check up on him.

We checked in with Ian almost every day on his homework. Over time Ian has become self-motivated on working on his assignments. On the math classes we would help with studying for the final exams and help Ian with which topics to focus on.

This semester’s English class has gone better than we ever hoped. The work is focused on writing, vocabulary, and reading. It is just at the edge of Ian’s ability. Ian is medium-verbal and we were worried whether Ian would be able to keep up. We are thrilled that Ian is making progress on this subject and Ian’s reading comprehension and writing ability are improving.

Ian did mostly well while Sara was away on her maternity leave but Ian did get a little off track. Ian missed some assignments given verbally in class and the web page for the class had not been updated. We ramped up making sure Ian knew about all assignments and the teacher was flexible about letting Ian turn in the missing assignments late.

The class was extremely challenging for Ian but he earned a B in lecture and an A in the lab and has achieved a solid 3.10 overall GPA.

Another win: during our semester meeting with Ian’s academic counselor to plan his next semester the counselor urged us to consider skipping a GED and instead have Ian work directly on earning an AA degree. Ian was happy about this plan. The GED has always felt like a step backwards but a college degree feels like progress to everyone.


What has worked. Some of these are “duh” but we have found all of these things important:

One class at a time. We feel the focus on one class at a time has been key to Ian’s success. In the English class there are reading assignments, writing assignments, and vocabulary/spelling assignments all with different start and due dates. It has been at the edge of Ian’s organizational skills to manage this and he has made some mistakes. If there was a second class’s assignments he was also juggling, we feel it would be too much for him.

Maintain good communication with the professor and the school. College of Marin has been incredibly supportive and has been flexible about allowing our aides to be in the room when needed. We helped Ian maintain contact with his professors by email and attending office hours.

Attend EVERY class meeting. If the student attends EVERY class meeting it really helps! Amazing. This sounds easy but we know from working with others that just attending can be a challenge.

Work (a bit) on homework nearly every day. Only one class – easy, right? All of these classes caused Ian to need to look at fundamental material so the total workload was pretty high. After we established the daily homework routine, Ian began to own it and do his homework on his own.

Ian goes to college – The plan for his education

| November 17, 2014

Ian is continuing to do well attending his class at College of Marin which Sara wrote about previously. As Ian’s first semester ends Sara will write again to relate how things went and what we all learned. In this installment I want to discuss what our motivations and ideas are as we work forward with Ian.

Ian is a medium-verbal autistic and did not achieve a high school diploma. We had choices while Ian was moving through the public school system. Over time we found that it really boiled down to two paths: education or socialization. In pure special education settings (separate classes from the mainstream student body), Ian’s education was maximized. In full inclusion settings, Ian’s social skills progressed but his significant verbal deficits meant that he did not learn much of the curriculum.

This either/or choice is a consequence of Ian’s need for focus to make progress. We have found this to be true in general for other people we work with. In our experience autistics(*) do not do well when trying to learn simultaneously on several different threads. While Neuro Typical (NTs) teenagers might be able to learn Math, History, English, a foreign language, Science, and age-appropriate social behavior all at the same time, we almost always find that people with ASD need to focus on fewer topics of learning to make good progress. Ian’s verbal impairment is significant and he needs to focus on just a few activities to make satisfactory progress.

Since middle school we had unsuccessfully argued with the schools that Ian needed to be able to focus on fewer topics. It was very frustrating for us when Ian’s middle school special education teacher tried our suggestion for a couple weeks, reported great progress but because he did not have administrative support to continue he immediately returned to the same multi-topic approach we all knew did not work as well.

Picture 013 In any case, we knew Ian needed focus. As Ian approached eighth grade we started looking at choices for high school. Ian had been with a large cohort of regular ed neighborhood students since fourth grade. They knew Ian, liked him and looked out for him. Almost all of these students were going to be moving to Redwood High School across the street from the middle school. However, our high school district has concentrated their services for autistics and other special education programs at Drake High School further away and with an almost totally new group of students.

Picture 046 Ian wanted to go to Redwood with his cohort. The District wanted Ian to go to the other school. This presented us with a difficult but clear choice. With all the special education resources at Drake, Ian would have one-on-one support and classes modified to his level. At Redwood, Ian would have no one-on-one support and only a slightly modified classroom experience. The district’s choice would be better for Ian’s education. Ian’s choice would be better for his social skills and learning independence.

The final piece was when Janet and I asked ourselves: will Ian’s education be done at the end of his senior year, or will he need more education after high school? Ian’s language difficulties meant that if Ian was going to get a high school diploma it was going to be a very hard four years. We have worked with other students who struggled hard to get the diploma and most refused to do any more education afterwards as they were tired of the hard grind.

grad2 We made the choice that Ian’s education was going to be a long haul. We realized that our goal for high school was that Ian acquire the skills to be able to continue his education after high school. That meant enjoying school enough to want to continue. Ian attended Redwood high nearby and left in 2014 with a certificate of completion.




399 Frankly, Ian is not fully on board with the plan that he attend community college part time and work part time, possibly for many years. The near term goal is a GED and possibly attending a four-year college afterwards. When asked, Ian’s idea of college and his living situation is based on the movie “Animal House.” He sees himself living with a group of young people having fun.

Besides starting college this semester, Ian moved out to a house nearby with three other autistic young men last month. We’ll write about THAT soon.

* As a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and as someone who has chosen to immerse myself in this work I will often use “autistic” to mean either “symptoms of the diagnosis of autism” or “a person with the diagnosis of autism.” Similarly I will use ASD to mean either “Autism Spectrum Disorder” or “a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.” I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I will often use “aspie” to refer to individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Ian goes to college part 2 – His first day

| August 26, 2014

Ian4-8-12Ian is bravely trying out a college class at College of Marin. While it is not a community college in San Francisco complete with dorms, (one of Ian’s current dreams), it is a huge step towards the independent adult life that he is trying to build for himself and that his parents are working to support with all of their hearts. In true Dan and Janet fashion, when they looked at the current programs to support students with disabilities at the local community college and found them lacking, they set out to build something better.  

002Thus I am attending the class with Ian, not only to support him as a student, but to investigate the nature of supporting ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) individuals at the college level. In addition to thinking about balancing Ian’s needs with those of his teacher and classmates, I am going to be doing my best to think about how this support could be scaled up to meet the needs of other ASD students.

Ian with HarpOne of the joys and challenges of working with ASD individuals is the incredible diversity of their skills, talents and needs. During our first day of class, I noticed that Ian’s tendency is to tune out the intense verbal language of the lecture component of the class. While doing this, he is still working hard to stay regulated and to present an outward impression of paying attention. He is quiet and still at his desk and looks toward the teacher as she talks. Asking him questions, prompting him to write down essential concepts and reminding him to pay attention were strategies I tried to increase his level of attendance to the material being presented. I am helped in these efforts by the nature of the class, a drama class which teaches fundamental acting skills. As such, the class is taught by a woman who has a background in acting and who conducts her class in an engaging manor. High levels of affect naturally interest Ian, and prompt him to attend to the material. Another helpful element of the class is that the students tend to only spend small chunks of time on lecture material before being called to their feet and asked to put principles into active practice.

IanJoyDuring the circle exercises of the first day, passing names and gestures around a circle, first methodically and then in a random pattern, Ian displayed a very high level of engagement. He not only “got” the games, he was good at them. Over the course of these exercises, I saw the students’ perception of Ian change. Their attitude shifted from one of curiosity to one of interest, and he was chosen often by his peers to participate. He was good at remembering the names of his peers and who had or had not been already chosen. It was gratifying to see Ian engaging and succeeding. Our only interaction during this period was when he would catch my eye from across the room and I would give him a smile or thumbs-up. This first day showed me three different levels of engagement and motivation that Ian currently possesses. There was a language-based lecture that he needed a high level of support to gain benefit from, a short film sequence and some short monologue performances that Ian watched intently and was able to comment on with very little scaffolding/prompting, and there were the active exercises, which he was able to attend to and participate in without support.

Ian and SaraThe drama exercises can be viewed as intense focused social interactions that follow distinct sets of rules. With these rules in place, Ian was able to have prolonged interactions with his peers, both one-on-one and as a group. This component of the class is important, challenging, and highly motivating for Ian. He is a member of an ensemble. He is having to stretch himself to fulfill his obligation to the ensemble, and some of his peers may be having to stretch their perception of disability in order to fulfill their obligations to him. I find this to be incredibly healthy stretching for all parties.


Personal Ownership/Parents Transition

| February 10, 2014

ConnorSo I have not written in this blog for some time and I apologize. My intent was to do this more regularly but perhaps monthly is a better goal.

A parent forwarded another great transition blog written by Laura Shumaker. What was of interest is that she has a son who is now 20 and comments on the same things. There is a lot of focus on early intervention. We need to create the opportunities for our young adults. This means that we must seek out employers, internships and volunteer opportunities. We must create a stronger circle of resources for our young adults.

The topics are very similar because as we transition our kids we are all consumed with the same concerns. I often say if I could live forever I would not be as worried about my son’s future. I would not care if he lived at home but that is not the case. My focus is getting him employed and into a supported living situation. He is 21 years old this year but our goal continues to be to transition him gradually and by age 25. He is the one that told us 25 and we are trying to follow his lead while gently guiding him.

ConnorConnor has been attending a county program since finishing up high school. This is a program that stresses very little academics and has a lot of down time. We decided to have Connor attend as he needed a place where he would be engaged and around others his age. There was also a very structured transportation element that would facilitate independence in taking the bus. We had only hoped to have Connor attend for a year as we worked to figure out other post high school options. He is now in his second year and really thriving. What has happened is Connor has taken complete ownership for this program. He knows on what days he needs to bring lunch and makes his own without any involvement from us. On the days he goes to Safeway he checks with his dad about what he should purchase. Connor will also buy things that he needs like mouthwash or toothpaste. He monitors this on his own. He gets ready in the morning on his own and is always ready when the taxi arrives. We in fact do not need to be home. He is also taking the bus on his own. He is given money at the beginning of the week and has to budget for the week to cover lunches, bus fare and trips to Safeway. I share this as sometimes as parents we walk away from some programs without considering the long term impact. I have actually never visited this class when in session as I knew I would be looking for something else. Connor is almost 21 and he needs to make his own choices and also be responsible for his activities. We have really stepped back and we are the ones who are also transitioning.

Connor cutting plywoodConnor has 3 different part time jobs/internships including the Autistry Model Employment Program. He works hard at these jobs and we are hopeful that this will be a foundation for future employment as he has acquired great skills and understands better the work environment. We await word from the Department of Rehabilitation as we hope to transfer Connor to paying jobs. I will blog about that journey. We still have not accessed GGRC but will be soon.

* For more information on Transition and to meet other community leaders, service providers, and parents join us at the Marin Autism Collaborative Annual Meeting, Saturday, March 8th, 9am – Noon at Marin Office of Education, 1111 Las Galinas Ave, San Rafael. There will also be a panel of young adults with autism speaking about their transition and work place experiences.

Help others see my strengths/ Time Magazine

| October 23, 2013

I just finished reading the article in Time Magazine “What’s Right with the Autistic Mind”.  I really appreciated this article which supports the need to focus in on strengths rather than deficits.  I encourage others to read this article and share with friends as it does offer insight into a different way of thinking. My brother who is a scientist  and has a doctorate in bio physics (and is not on the spectrum) once commented that  curing autism was not the right approach as the mind of a person with autism is often times a gift into a different way to think and solve problems. He said this understanding that his nephew needed intense intervention. My brother had an amazing connection to Connor and was able to understand how he processed information so could elicit pretty profound thinking from him.

Connor in hard hatThe entire educational experience for parents as well as children with special needs is usually discussing what they are unable to do rather than recognizing the strengths and building on those. In a true transition plan this is exactly what should be done; build on skills to assist with employment options or other post high school experiences. My younger son asked me why I work so hard on keeping Connor engaged and I told him because we need to teach him how to exist in this world. I also explained that the best approach is to integrate his way of thinking and adapt this to our world in order for him to someday be independent. We also need to do our best at educating others so they can appreciate his strengths and those of many adults on the spectrum.   My son asked me many other questions and I later learned that he was writing an essay titled, How to live with my Brother.  He asked me to read the paper and my initial impression was that this was not truly Connor but an exaggeration to have more of an impact on the reader.  I then thought about this more and concluded that most of what he had described was really pretty accurate but yet not how I saw Connor. My younger son knows his brother well and they are very close and I respected his perspective.  This got me thinking about how others saw my son and what I could do to better represent his skills and strengths. This is not just true of my son but all these young adolescents. What can we do so others can appreciate them for who they are and what skills they are able to contribute?  

looking downAs part a member of the Alternative Programming Advisory Committee at Tamalpais Union High District we discussed the essentials for student success. Here are some of the characteristics that were discussed and I am interested to hear if there are others that we may have missed that relate to our students: ability to advocate, emotional intelligence, basic /core academic skills, critical thinking skills, personal financial management, personal expression/creativity, teamwork, ability to see own potential, self-confidence, ability to assess impact actions have on yourself and others, ownership to learning.

I have contacted several different people to see if they are willing to help me create a support network for internships.  More to follow…


Community Outreach/Alternate Programs at Tamalpais District

| September 30, 2013

Owen2As we try to spread awareness and acceptance I find that it is much harder to garner support for adults.  I do not really understand but seems that perhaps people believe when supporting younger kids there is hope for further growth and success but when reach adulthood then support just means some form of hand out or charity. So our mission becomes to educate the community that our young adolescents have much to contribute and that support for them also means further growth and success.

We must also empower our young adolescents to be able to self advocate and be comfortable sharing who they are and perhaps some of their own struggles.   Struggles lead to strength of character and are part of any person so we need to reinforce that it is really okay to experience this.  

the girlsI am not sure this message is really getting out there. Folks are listening but no one is engaging.   We need to reach outside our safe community and engage others who truly would benefit from hiring our adolescents.  I need everyone reading this to think of people that own a company or have the ability to hire on some of these adults. There are agencies out there that will partner with these employers. I am challenging you to think of one person or one company where you have a contact. You and others will feel so empowered to have helped.  I have helped two agencies make contact with 2 law firms who have successfully placed two adults and I cannot express how much value these very special adults are bringing to these employers.

I have been very frustrated by the news and media acknowledging that there are very few services and resources available for adults.  I read an article describing this as an impending community care crisis commenting on the fact that all the kids (1 in 88) diagnosed with autism will someday be adults with autism and  if there are limited resources today this will only worsen.  We must change this.

We must engage our community. We are at the fore front of this huge bubble of kids being diagnosed and we absolutely need to be reaching out to others and make change.

If you are willing to accept my challenge then please contact me as I am trying to put together shared resources on employment options. 

I just got selected to be on an Alternative Programming Advisory Committee at Tamalpais Union High School District.  The purpose of this committee is to develop measurable criteria by which alternative programs could be evaluated.  I have always known that there were a number of alternative programs available but did not understand all the options available to our students.  There is a program through adult education that assist students who may want to get a GED rather than a diploma. This may be for a student who struggles to attend class and may be overwhelmed in a high school setting. I am asking a lot of questions and will share with you all the programs that are available in this district. I will also learn about other programs in other districts as we investigate ways to measure. I will include this in future posts.


I think too much about what I am going to write which is why takes me so long to post.  Please let me know any topics that may interest you and I will do my best to access resources and obtain information.

Giants support Autism, and my experience with GGRC

| September 2, 2013

Will Clark of the SF Giants

Will Clark of the SF Giants

Although I had hoped to write a weekly blog I find that things just seem to always be busy. So looks to be an every other week blog. I did have a great day at a corporate event last week. I found out that Will Clarke’s son was autistic and so when he tossed me the ball at the end of batting practice I yelled out can you sign this ball for my son who has autism. He immediately came over and talked to me for about 10 minutes. Connor now has a personalized ball. Just makes you realize that there are a lot of folks out there supporting autism. Will Clark attends the annual Giants event in support of Autism. I have never attended but think I will next year.
Ian and Connor building the racetrack

Ian and Connor building the racetrack

I also was able to have Connor continue to work at Autistry Studios two days a week and incorporate this as part of his transitional program at IVC.  I was very grateful that the district was flexible about transport and willing to work with me. This also gives a lot of credibility to the employment program at Autistry with Marin County Office of Education. I hope that this allows future partnerships between the schools and Autistry.



This week I want to write about Golden Gate Regional Center services.  My son’s IPP (Individual Program Plan) was just last week. Although I ended up conducting this over the phone I decided that future meetings will be with Connor and I will fade to the background.  GGRC will be most critical for my son when he is living on his own and he needs to understand the process and that he has another layer of support.

Connor was denied GGRC three times. The first time was when he was 3, then again when he was 8 and then just before his 18th birthday. The last time I did appeal and requested an informal meeting. I had to then be strategic as I prepared for this meeting as I was worried about the financial cost of hiring an attorney if we had to go to a hearing.  I got a new neuropsyche report and I also met with an attorney from Disability Rights of California. This attorney at no cost took me through the Lanterman Act and also met with Connor.  She fully supported that Connor should qualify for GGRC and we made sure that we had the paperwork in order and could address all the reasons why he was entitled to GGRC. 

At the informal meeting the doctor who had actually previously denied Connor services when he was younger did explain his reasoning although truthfully I was not interested in retrospect but moving forward. Needless to say after an hour meeting the group from GGRC only took 10 minutes to agree that Connor was eligible for services.  Some of the reports that I had submitted with my last request did discuss inaccurately some prior employment that Connor had secured. My advice therefore is to be sure that the reports you submit are entirely accurate and to ensure that they address abilities/disability within the Lanterman Act. Also if you believe that your adolescent will likely need support into adulthood push for these services. Find the right neuropsyche who understands the requirements and is willing to participate in informal hearings.

I do not know where an agency like GGRC will be in the next 10 years but right now it is a huge comfort to know that after Connor is finished with MCOE he will be monitored by another agency.


High School Support/Life Skills

| August 18, 2013

As I continue this blog I am going to refer to our kids as adolescents. As my son continues to remind me: they clearly are not kids anymore.

005Several people have recently contacted me to talk about the lack of job training skills that our adolescents may be receiving as right now their full time job may just be to attend school. Also, not many schools integrate internships into the curriculum or as part of the IEP. Truthfully though this should really be part of any transition IEP.  We need to create opportunities for our adolescents and we should find a way to get the schools to incorporate this into any IEP.  You, however, must take initiative to discover these opportunities.  An internship may be more appropriate than homework.  A parent recently shared with me that the homework she has for her daughter is specific to life skills. This will ensure that there is continuity with these skills at home and provide better generalization. These skills may be cooking a meal or preparing lunch.  If you have an adolescent who is strong academically but lacks basic hygiene or other skills that will allow them to be independent and also keep a job then you may want to consider how to balance this.

Connor with power screwdriverConsider transportation needs if your adolescent will not drive. Our son took the bus on his own last week and walked to his job. We had to be very strategic as for the past year as he has been very resistant to doing this on his own. He practiced many times and we are having someone shadow him. He had to be the one to tell us he was ready which I believe to all be part of his own growth. As I often share with others we just cannot get caught up with the time it may take to gain a particular skill as many of our adolescents can take a long time to get there but when they get there they generally retain what they learned. We also worry about how others will react to him in public when he starts talking to himself or pacing or even just looking up all the time. He is very comfortable sharing with others that he has autism and we have talked to him about what he would do if someone reacted to his behavior. He has some responses but most importantly he has a cell phone so he can call us or anyone else that he knows can help him. Some day he will be on his own and we have to face these issues now so he knows how to manage them. Very overwhelming as a parent. I am most motivated by the fact that I want his younger brother to have his own life and choices as he will likely be C guardian some day when we are no longer here. If C is able to live independently and work with support of GGRC this will not fall on my younger son.

We have identified 3 skills that we want my son to gain over the next 6-12 months. We are not specifically including this in his IEP as we are focused on helping him gain this outside of his transition program. We are just not sure that they have the resources for this and we are making this choice. He does get a lot out of his transition program but not necessarily all that we believe he will need to get to the point of living and working on his own. This is why he is also involved with Autistry.  We do have to make tough choices about finances as we do have a younger son who will be going to college in a couple years.

Next week I will talk about GGRC. Summer is just about over and here we go into another school year.

Transitions: Disappointment brings value/ Parents own Transition

| July 21, 2013

Steven studying

Steven studying

Everything I write about is my opinion and based on lots of interaction with other parents/specialists.  I have been very active in this community and wanted to share with others what I have learned as many parents have reached out to me for advice. Again you need to thoughtfully consider what I outline as you know your son/daughter.  I am strongly urging you to start your own transition and consider this as you read what I write. Transition is as much for the parent as for the your adolescent.

Kris, Corey, Ross, and Phoebe - Transition!

Kris, Corey, Ross, and Phoebe – Transition!

I wanted to respond to a few questions I received following my last blog. Districts can put pressure on families sometimes to select a track:  diploma or services.  I have a friend who was asked to make this decision in middle school.  Sometimes you know but many times there is still so much growth going on that you want to be sure you do not box your child so that there are not options when you get to high school. If the student can handle the academics then you should work towards a diploma at least the first year of high school as will be an indication of what they can handle.  You can clearly also word this in an IEP under comments.  If you are considering a diploma you should also transition your son/ daughter to some type of regular high school if you really are preparing them for college or even independent employment. This is more real world and will force them to integrate into situations that will prepare them post high school.  This may not always be the case but something you should seriously evaluate. This all goes to what you are considering post high school.  This may not be until the junior year when you have a better sense of what type of learning and social environment they can tolerate.  If they still need a lot of support in later high school years then services may be more appropriate.

This leads me to the topic I want to talk about today.  As parents we want to protect and shield our kids from disappointment. Truthfully though we all face disappointment and so better to expose our kids to this when we can be around to help them navigate and also just appreciate that all part of life.  This is particularly true as we want to transition them to more independence.   We have to let them do things that we may not know whether they can manage but know that a critical skill that may be needed for independence.   We can also be strategic with how we introduce them to new skills and situations. More often than not we do not want to do this as we do not want them to fail. Failure is only negative if there is no learning going on and if there is no understanding of how to move forward. What I am speaking to is true for all kids not just those with special needs. As parents though we just tend to shield and protect our kids with special needs more.

Working on his own

Working on his own

My son wants to do more on his own. He is doing things and not always successfully.  He now phones in his medication refill to the pharmacy. The first couple times we did together.  He then did on his own and pressed the wrong numbers. He got frustrated but he also learned that not a big deal and is now doing correctly. When attempting to take a bus to Autistry he was tasked with figuring out the schedule and route. He got confused and did not understand that there was a to and from route. He showed up at the wrong time and again got a little frustrated but worked through this and the next day got the right location and departure time.  He also learned a lot about bus schedules. These may not seem significant risks but they were situations he needed to manage on his own and was not successful at first. When my son worked for me several summers ago I gained a lot of insight.  His first day of work I had a meeting. I was worried as he was on his own but created very structured schedule and told him to ask my assistant if he had any questions.  I did not want to go to my meeting as my son had never been left alone in a work situation. My meeting ended up being 2 hours long and when I got back to his desk he had not only completed the work I had given him but had sought out my assistant when he needed help, identified a few problems that had never been brought to my attention and even had limited his break to 15 minutes on the computer accessing the internet.  He was successful but it took everything in me to walk away and go to my meeting.

As we move our kids toward employment there will be skills that will be a challenge and we need to be sure that if they are not always successful initially at a task that they are able to manage their frustrations and approach in a different way.

C and I are through 3 weeks of the employment program at Autistry.  They had to understand how to complete a W9, importance of personal identification for employment. They both need to complete timecards to record hours and then deposit their paycheck into checking account. Both C& I are learning team work and together successfully built a trailer which will be needed to transport wood for a shed that they are just starting to put together.  They are focused and respectful to each other and Dan. They are learning how to take direction and constructive feedback from their boss Dan. These are skills many young college graduates struggle with, taking direction and being open to feedback for improvement.